Improving the UK-EU relationship

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a profound shock to the post-Cold War order in Europe, upsetting the assumptions of a generation and throwing into sharp relief challenges to the EU and NATO and necessitating radical changes in the future direction of their foreign, membership and trade policies, the latest European & International Analysts’ Group paper says.

In the EU long accepted notions about policy were swiftly abandoned.  Germany dropped its policy of seeking to maintain close economic and political ties with Russia in the belief that mutual economic dependence would increase German security without having to expand its armed forces.  The EU agreed for the first time to use its European Peace Facility mechanism to send military equipment and financial aid to Ukraine.

Six packages of economic sanctions against Russia, in concert with the US and the UK, were adopted in short order.  A continent very considerably dependent on Russian coal, gas and oil began to restrict its energy imports from that country and to look rapidly for ways to end such imports altogether.  Over six million Ukrainian refugees have fled the country and over five million were accepted by EU countries after the decision was taken to waive visa requirements.1

NATO was re-energised by the Russian attack, entering into detailed co-operation between its members in support of Ukraine.  The shadow of the Trump presidency was lifted with the alliance finding a renewed unity.  Finland and Sweden, two neighbours of Russia which had been neutral countries for many decades, are poised to join NATO.

Three other countries, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, applied to join the EU.  Although accession is a lengthy process, the applications were immediately referred to the European Commission for an opinion, which will be delivered before the meeting of the European Council on 23-24 June, when these countries may be accorded candidate status.

As many commentators have noted, the greatest irony of the Russian attack on Ukraine was that far from rolling back NATO involvement in eastern and central Europe, it unified the West behind a determination to maintain the alliance and its borders in the face of Russian revanchism and to support Ukraine by any measures short of direct military involvement.

The UK Government’s vigorous policy of support for Ukraine, with cross-party backing, has reminded EU Member States, particularly those in central and Eastern Europe, that the UK still has a key part to play in any issues relating to European security.

The E&IAG, made up of former ambassadors and senior FCDO/European Commission officials, goes on to make a series of policy proposals you can read about here